The Oaks – 0, Cal Football – 1

Tess MinskyCorrespondent ISeptember 16, 2008

Universities with a football team are fortunate in their ability to attain revenue from that football program; and it is not just the university but also the city that reaps these monetary benefits and shares in the financial gain.


Of course, not every university's football program brings in the same amount.  Division 1 schools generate much more revenue due to their larger fan, student-body, and alumni base; they get more coverage and more donations.  D1 sports programs, particularly football, help boost the local economy. What university wouldn't want this economic stimulus?


The same is true for UC Berkeley.  Jeff Tedford, the head coach of Cal’s Golden Bears, has a base salary of $1.8 million more per annum than the Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who heads one of the most renowned public universities in the world, arguably.  Tedford out-earns any other paid UC-employee, and let’s face it, the Bears, although they have promise and supporters aplenty, do not have the strongest program in D1 football right now.


What to make, then, of the tearing down of an oak grove for the building of a new varsity training center? Berkeley, widely known for its Free Speech Movement in the 1960s, for its efforts in sustainability, and its grassroots traditions, has gotten slightly more conservative than its infamous prior-self of the '60s, not to say that its tradition is any less appreciated, celebrated, or forgotten in any way. 

However, this hope to keep Berkeley’s “soul” alive brings up the contradictory issue regarding the chopping down of the coast live oaks.  Rallying in support of the oaks were the people of Berkeley, other environmental-activist organizations such as the Sierra Club, and many UCB students. 

It was shaping up to be a fight where Berkeley’s political activist past was pitted against its incredible athletic pride and competitive nature that is part of all D1 universities.


After $20 million dollars in litigation and $750,000 in policing fees for the tree-sitters, an accord was finally reached.  For every oak cut down, UC has agreed to plant three elsewhere.  Is this a resolution that will appease the aggrieved parties?  After all, this new training center will only benefit the university and city of Berkeley.


Regardless of whether the tree-sitters agree with the UC’s 3-for-1 decision, the trees have been cut down and a part of Berkeley’s history has gone with them.   However, with this new training facility, Tedford will be able to use this gym to recruit better players, thus enabling him to generate more revenue including donations.  Other sports will also use the new facility, thus helping the university to recruit better athletes in all sports. This new facility means a more competitive athletic agenda for UC Berkeley, which will generate more revenue.


Is this new training center worth the destruction of an important ecosystem?  Does the removal of the oaks show the university’s proclivity towards athletics while ignoring its “grass”roots?  I say, what is Berkeley if it is not a place for well roundedness and diversity; it already delivers world-class academics; now it can cover its athletic end and be an ultimate powerhouse.  And the new facility can include training for football players to hang on to the ball all the way into the end zone.


Go Bears.